Oh dear oh lor oh lummee.
But then, having got themselves into an unseemly and quite uncharacteristic tizzy of enthusiastic excitement over Double Feature 1 in the National Theatre‘s summer season of new plays, it could only really be downhill for the sequel.
Poor old Double Feature 2 – burdened with the thankless task of producing the theatrical equivalent of the notoriously difficult second album.
And of course it completely failed to live up to the first which will now be tarnished by the rubbishness of the second.
First up is a monologue called Nightwatchman, by Prasanna Puwanarajah (who is currently appearing in Emperor and Galilean). Professional cricketer Abirami (Stephanie Street) hones her batting skills in a cricket practice alley on the eve of her debut for the English women’s team against Sri Lanka.
Though not strictly about the game the first part is peppered with cricketing references and these went straight over the Whingers’ heads, just like the balls did when the Whingers were forced to play at school. Phil was raised on the edge of a cricket field – practically in the silly mid off position and has a cricket fanatic father, yet despite this none of it rubbed off on Phil whose eyelids will give way to gravity at the first few notes of the Test Match Special theme.
Anyhoo, we also found ourselves a bit at sea over the whole Sri Lanka thing too, trying desperately to remember the ins and outs of 2009’s news and thereby provide some context for it. Needless to say we failed. So, yes, given our scant knowledge of cricket and Lankan politics we floundered somewhat.
It didn’t help that the piece seemed rather lacking in variety and much as we commend the skills involved in synchronising the batting of invisible balls with the sound effects of wood on willow and so on, given the chance we would have been back at the pavilion long before Miss Street declared herself out.
Our tip: Swat up on recent Tamil history and bring a copy of Wisden.
The second piece, Tom Basden’s There Is A War begins promisingly enough with some amusing dialogue sharply delivered by the excellent team of actors who appeared in Double Feature 1.
A civil war is going on between the Blues and the Greys, all played out on Soutra Gilmour’s Borrowers-style set. Occasionally surreal and absurdist, Basden throws an awful lot into it including a kitchen sink, presumably wrenched from Anthony Neilson‘s domicile.
We are possibly in a dystopian future (although not nearly as interesting as the one in Double Feature 1) or possibly a dystopian past because they don’t appear to have the internet or why wouldn’t they know that the famous singer has recorded the same song with different lyrics to support both sides in the war? Or maybe the Internet got turned off like it did in Egypt.
Anyway, what started as an amusing enough diversion went on and on looking for something to say, finally settling on some conspiracy to keep people at war with each other although to be honest we really had stopped paying attention by then.
Our tip: To see something about the futility of war book for Journey’s End instead.
Perhaps the bar had been set too high but this felt like it should have been called Double Feature 3 or Double Feature 4, where the franchise is tiring and relying on the goodwill of punters who swooned over the original.
Don’t be put off booking for DF1 if you saw this first.
Avoid booking seats in Row A for DF2, it’s not the front row and suffers from second-rowitis like the Menier (sometimes) and the Soho Theatre – it’s not raised enough behind the front row whereas the rest of the seats behind it are steeply raked. Very annoying.